Leapai inspires others to dream (The West)
Alex Leapai defeats Denis Boytsov to earn a shot at Wladimir Klitschko. Pic: Bongarts/Getty Images

Alex Leapai's bid to become Australia's first world heavyweight boxing champion this weekend is acting as an inspiration to other would-be contenders.

Leapai faces the daunting task of ending Wladimir Klitschko's 10-year unbeaten record - a winning run that began three months before Leapai had his first professional fight.

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But the man he laced up against for his debut outing at the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane in July 2004 says the Samoa-born Queenslander is giving hope to those who fret their opportunity might never come.

"It's inspiring to see what has happened, for guys like me and other guys sitting in the rankings," Perth's Mark de Mori said.

"Two years ago he lost to Kevin Johnson and people thought it was all over for him. But he stuck at it, got his eliminator against (Denis) Boytsov and he's got his shot. Now win, lose or draw he's going to make over $1million. It's great for him but also for Australian boxing."

De Mori, rated 12th by the World Boxing Association and in the World Boxing Council top 20, had won his first five bouts before he was pitched in with Leapai, the pair sharing a six-round, split-decision draw.

"I have followed his career closely, like I do with all the guys I've fought. Obviously it's been pretty exciting lately," de Mori said.

"Leapai had been tearing through the amateurs and no one wanted to fight him and no one was fighting me.

"He is so strong and has a good chin and absorbs a punch. That can make up a lot for what he lacks in technique. I hit him with some big shots and thought I've got him now. But every time shot he came back roaring."

De Mori is now based in Split, Croatia, the country of his wife Milijana. He says few in Europe give Leapai a chance against Klitschko in Germany on Sunday (WA time).

"Not really, but nobody here gives anyone a chance against Klitschko, this is nothing against Alex," he said.

"In Europe, Klitschko is allowed to fight how he wants. If you have 110kg leaning down on your back and neck it tires you out.

"What will probably happen is that Klitschko will be leaning all over him, tiring him out and then between rounds five-to-eight he'll start to take the steam out of Leapai and stop him. Especially as he'll also be landing big right hands on the back of his head."

Is there a chance that Leapai, around 8-1 in the betting, can slip under both Klitschko's relentless jab and the radar? De Mori doesn't think so.

"For Alex, who is a massive puncher, his best bet is to try to turn it into a brawl, try to unsettle Klitschko and get inside. But if he lets Klitschko settle he's in for a long, long night, getting hit by that jab.

"Wladimir Klitschko is so incredibly professional. He trains like an elite athlete all the time, he doesn't take a day off. He doesn't care if it's a boring fight. And I can't see him taking Alex lightly, like say Lennox Lewis might have."

De Mori, who is backed by veteran American promoter Don King, has lost only one in 28 fights but has boxed just once since last May.

He said he is waiting for visa clearance to fight in the USA so he won't be hammered by "illegal alien tax" but has "five or six fights planned for this year" in Australia, Germany and Montenegro.

He also plans to target a regional title to help solidify his WBA ranking.

The West Australian

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